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What’s Special about Fall Aurora in the NWT

The Northwest Territories is known for having the world’s best Northern Lights, a breathtaking natural phenomenon that attracts travellers from all around the globe. 

When people dream of standing below these amazing Aurora displays, many imagine themselves surrounded by the snowy wonderland that is the NWT in the wintertime. While it’s true that winter in the NWT is a spectacular time to see the Northern Lights in Canada and take part in a number of iconic winter activities, fewer travellers know about the NWT’s Fall Aurora season.

Seeing the Northern Lights in the fall is just as impressive as the winter Aurora season. The Northern Lights are just as active, offering  many unique and memorable ways to experience the world’s best Aurora. If you aren’t a fan of the cold but are still looking for the most impressive Northern Lights displays, here are a few things that make the Fall Aurora season different in the NWT.

When is Fall Aurora Season in the NWT?

Fall Aurora season starts mid-August and continues through until early October. However, depending on where in the NWT you ask, you’ll get a slightly different answer for when the Northern Lights return to the sky. 

That’s because the Northern Lights are technically active all year, but the presence of the Midnight Sun in the middle of summer means the sky is too bright to see their displays. The farther from the summer solstice the season gets, the darker the skies at night, and the more visible the Aurora becomes. By mid-August, places like Yellowknife – which sit directly under the highly-active Auroral Oval – see the Northern Lights return to the skies in bright and active displays.

The reason the Fall Aurora season is said to end after the first two weeks of October is that the change into winter brings a brief period of snowy cloud cover. This cloud cover disappears in late November when humidity drops and the crisp winter sky opens for the Winter Aurora season.

See the Aurora at a Remote Lodge

Being away from city lights is important if you want to experience the full brilliance of the Aurora, and that makes the Northwest Territories one of the best places to see the Northern Lights unobstructed and undimmed. 

Across the territory, there are lodges and cabins that are the perfect place to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the North during the day and marvel at the horizon-spanning Northern Lights by night. Some of these lodges focus specifically on hosting the perfect opportunity to see the Aurora, while many others are also fishing lodges or wilderness lodges. Far from the light of the city but close to the comforts of your luxurious lodge or cozy cabin, seeing the Fall Aurora out at a lodge highlights what many people say is so unforgettable about the Northern Lights – the feeling that each display is a personal and intimate experience. 

Camp under the aurora

Seeing the Fall Aurora typically means staying up a little later than you normally would for the winter Aurora, because you have to make sure the night sky is dark enough. This makes camping a great way to catch the Northern Lights in the NWT. Spending time around a campfire means the evening can creep up on you and, before you know it, the Aurora will begin to form ribbons and waves in the sky.

Some truly intrepid campers aren’t afraid to do a little cold weather camping in the NWT, and catch the Aurora out in the solitude of a winter night, but most people prefer to camp when the weather is warmer and there’s no snow on the ground. Fall weather in the NWT hits that perfect in-between – warm days for outdoor adventure and dark nights to watch the skies in anticipation of the Northern Lights.

Find Unique Aurora Photo Opportunities

When winter comes to the NWT, the landscape transforms dramatically. In a matter of weeks, the full and green trees lose their leaves, the calm surfaces of the lakes freeze up, and everything gets blanketed in a pristine coat of snow. There’s no doubt that winter in the NWT is absolutely beautiful, but anyone who has seen the brief fall season will tell you that it is just as spectacular, and capturing a photo of the Northern Lights in the fall makes for some incredible scenes and memories.

One of the most impressive sights to point your shutter towards is the Northern Lights reflecting across the undisturbed surface of a lake. With so many open bodies of water, and Northern lights that can stretch across horizons, finding the right place to set up for Aurora photography can result in Northern Lights that seem to reach across the sky and meet their reflection in the lake below. The still waters mirror the shades of green and purple in an otherworldly display that can only be seen in the fall.

See the Aurora in a National Park

The Northwest Territories is home to some of Canada’s most impressive and remote national parks. Canada’s national parks have a reputation for being spectacular sites of natural beauty, and the NWT’s six national parks absolutely live up to that standard. From the expansive salt planes of Wood Buffalo National Park to the staggering mountain peaks of Nahanni National Park Reserve, parks in the NWT truly encompass the powerful landscapes and enduring beauty of the North. Catch these vistas under the light of the Aurora and your experience will be  unforgettable and humbling.

Many of the national parks in the NWT are more accessible in the summer and fall months. Whether that means campsite availability or simply being able  to fly into these expansive and more remote areas – the beauty of the national parks is easier to experience in the warmer months. This means that the Fall Aurora season is the best time to get spectacular views of the Northern Lights in a national park – when their combined splendor truly conveys what makes the Northwest Territories so spectacular.

Fall Aurora season in the NWT is just as beautiful as the winter season, with a few factors that make seeing Northern Lights in the fall uniquely memorable. To see the world’s best Northern Lights without the snow, the Northwest Territories’ Fall Aurora is a trip you can’t miss out on.

Inspired by the magic of the Aurora? Learn more about the cultural importance of the Aurora and available Northern Lights hunting tours. There is always another unforgettable experience to have under the best Northern Lights in the world.

Being the home of the best Northern Lights in the world is a pretty big claim, but we’ve got the facts to prove it. Before you come to see for yourself, read these 7 reasons why the NWT has the world’s best Aurora.

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